Euro RSCG MVBMS Gets Global Branding Work

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NEW YORK ( -- In an attempt to distance itself from what is believed to be the largest corporate accounting fraud in U.S. history, WorldCom is changing its name to MCI -- the name of the telecom unit it acquired in 1998.

The company has handed its longtime agency, Havas-owned Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, the global branding assignment following a pitch that included two other roster shops, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, and Cordiant Communications Group's DWP/Bates Technology.

MCI confirmed the news of the rebranding and gave details of its corporate reorganization plans yesterday at a press conference in Ashburn, Va., the site of the company's proposed new headquarters. WorldCom is currently based in Mississippi. The company also named a new chief financial officer, Robert Blakely.

Last June, the telecommunications giant admitted it had inflated profits by $3.8 billion, a figure that has grown steadily larger since then, though an April 1 Wall Street Journal report estimated that figure may reach as high as $11 billion. In July 2002, the company filed for Chapter 11 protection while it reorganized. It is expected to emerge from Chapter 11 proceedings in September 2003.

Ron Berger, CEO and chief creative officer at Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, said: "For us, this is tremendously significant. Rarely do you get an opportunity to be part of such a change. They have lived through their troubles and come out of the other side. They have been a client that has defined us."

Hired in 1990
MCI first hired Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG in 1990. The agency retained the business following WorldCom's acquisition of MCI in 1998, and added additional WorldCom duties.

Deutsch has handled MCI's consumer calling plan since February 2002. Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners handles what are called "non-branded" services such as 1-800-Collect and 10-10-220, among others. Mr. Berger declined to discuss the billing figures attached to the global assignment, citing Chapter 11 issues. MCI did not return repeated calls for comment.

'Togetherness' theme
"The theme of the ad campaign plays into the whole idea of togetherness, of voice and data together," Mr. Berger said. "It is one company under one name and we're using that as a metaphor." The campaign was directed by Peter Smillie, who shot the MCI commercials featuring actress Anna Paquin in 1993. The TV, print and online campaign broke yesterday, with The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal carrying the print ads.

In a press statement about the rebranding, MCI Chairman-CEO Michael Capellas said: "We wanted a new name that would make us proud. ... Once we evaluated our branding options, we realized that we already had a winner. With established brand equity and a name that stands for integrity, innovation and value, we're ready to regain our leadership position in the marketplace."

Ceased advertising
In a November 2002 conference call with analysts, French holding company Havas reported that WorldCom's decision to stop advertising that summer had affected its results. Analysts at the time estimated that WorldCom accounts for 1% of the holding company's revenue. WorldCom, however, did resume spending in the fourth quarter 2002.

WorldCom spent $211 million in 2002, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, $157.8 million of which promoted long-distance residential and business services. Spending on MCI-branded business in 2002, held by Deutsch, was $32.5 million.

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